This ‘Robohand’ Shows The Vast Potential Of 3D Printing


3D printing technology has officially hit the mainstream with the merger of MakerBot and Stratasys. But tinkerers, hobbyists, and medical professionals have been working to improve lives and revolutionise health through 3D printing since the 80s

Richard Van As of Johannesburg lost two of his fingers in an accident with a table saw. So he started looking for a way to fix his hand, NPR reports. He ended up connecting with a special effects artist from Bellingham, Wash. named Ivan Owen.

The two were able to solve Van As’ problem by building a mechanical finger. But one day, Van As received a call from a mother seeking help for her son named Liam. The five-year-old boy was born without fingers on his right hand due to a rare congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. 

Van As and Owen successfully made Liam a mechanical hand, but wondered if they could create the prosthetic hand with a 3D printer. 

So Owen emailed MakerBot, and the 3D printing company ended up sending both Van As and Owen 3D printers. What previously took about a week’s time to build now took only 20 minutes with a 3D printer. 

For the first time, Liam could pick up coins and grab shapes of different sizes with his right hand.

It’s not uncommon for kids with ABS to go without prosthetics. For one, prosthetics can cost thousands of dollars, and kids grow out of them quickly, MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis told Business Insider yesterday.

With 3D printing, now anyone can build a prosthetic hand using less than $5 in materials. 

“When you look at these types of applications,” Pettis says. “It just blows your mind as to what the possibilities are.” 

Check out a video of Liam using his Robohand below.